crime is sexy

Hypnospace Outlaw Review — Defunct Satire

by Jed Pressgrove

In Hypnospace Outlaw, the object is to scour and flag fictional web pages for violations such as content infringement, harassment, and obscenity. The game’s puzzles, if one can call them that, recall the desk work of a technical editor, and the audiovisuals evoke social networks of the 1990s and early 2000s. Think of this title, then, as Papers, Please meets Myspace — a combination that, on a basic conceptual level, reeks of tedium.

As an enforcer of Internet law in 1999, the player must grapple with an outdated interface, very noticeable loading times, less-than-ideal navigation, and the garish, cheapo imagery of web pages created by precocious children, jealous teenagers, overbearing Christians, douchebag rock musicians, clueless businesses, phony spiritual advisers, and other groups you’ve probably already laughed at while online.

In other words, Hypnospace Outlaw’s satirical vision would’ve seemed daring if it had been released about 20 years ago. Today, this game registers more as a mildly amusing representation of the early days of user-generated profiles on major platforms. Now that we are all used to slicker-looking and more intuitive social media, Hypnospace Outlaw encourages a type of nostalgic, smug laughter. We can cherish how lame we were a couple of decades ago and how much better we look now.

It wouldn’t have been impossible for developer Tendershoot, through reference to history, to say something relevant or, more wishfully, incisive about who we are as a modern online people. But Hypnospace Outlaw mocks the utter naivety of yesteryear too much to function as a commentary on our current struggle — namely, the modern Internet user’s willingness to knowingly reject their own interests in order to have convenient access to products. That we can play Hypnospace Outlaw on Steam, a platform that exploits our culture’s apathy and consumerism (as suggested by the 2015 satire Crime Is Sexy), tells us that the comedy has no fangs.

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Crime Is Sexy Review — Punching Up, Down, or Across

by Jed Pressgrove

There’s not a more vicious mockery of computer game politics than Crime Is Sexy. The sarcastic title has a double meaning, with the more obvious one being the jab at glorified crime series like Grand Theft Auto and Hotline Miami. Developer Jallooligans puts force into this punch by making the 1980s-inspired David Hasselhoff song “True Survivor” the score to its satire. In this context, Hasselhoff’s trivial 2015 Internet hit evokes the same type of retro sentimentality that game development churns out to make its celebrations of illegal activity seem like a part of every happy childhood. The self-aware yet unthinking heroism in “True Survivor” has a parallel in today’s smart-assed consumers who get hoodwinked by industry.

The second meaning of Crime Is Sexy plays off the contracts between players and “Overlords” like Steam, Electronic Arts (Jallooligans steals EA’s logo for an opening credit), and Ubisoft. Jallooligans depicts digital rights management as inherently absurd and, thus, criminal. Crime Is Sexy begins with you filling out credit/debit card information, reading a user agreement that outlines how the “Overlords” own everything related to the game (including you by extension of playing it), and giving away personal details. Hasselhoff’s line “Fighting for life, for good, for all that we believe in!” provides a biting contrast to the lack of action taken against what Jallooligans portrays as make-believe authority.

Crime Is Sexy then opens up as a collection of (supposedly) 1,000 unique games. As you scroll through and try titles such as Middle-Class Conflict Trainer, Bureaucratic Inferiority Non-Game, and Ethnic Downfall Statement (and numerous variations on these and other themes), you find every game is about failure as represented by a block that can’t quite jump to a higher platform. This repetitive send-up, along with an accompanying Kickstarter video pitch suggesting that popular social technology transforms game developers into beggars and swindlers, is mean-spirited but also true to Jallooligans’ class-driven implication that there should be more of a conscious fight from audiences and artists.